Celebrating Buruji Kashamu @ 59

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By Austin Oniyokor
His birth was providential and profound; so were the events leading to
his christening, growth and his entire life. Although his father was
doing well as a farmer and businessman, things took a turn for the
worse shortly before Senator Buruji Kashamu was born. However, before
his christening on the eighth day, there was a turnaround that
surprised members of the Kashamu family. The miraculous turn of events
informed his being christened “Buruji” which literally means one who
came into wealth early in life. This was in line with the Yoruba
tradition of taking cognizance of happenings around a family when
christening a child.
Born on the 19th of May, 1958, Senator Buruji Kashamu is the second
son and the third child of his mother’s four children for Pa Kashamu
Sodipe. Like most men of his time, Pa Kashamu was a polygamist. He had
five wives who bore him thirteen children.
For those who saw the young Buruji through infancy, his first
faltering steps and the events afterwards, they would readily surmise
that the name was divinely inspired.
After his early education at the Ansarudeen Primary School in Ijebu
Igbo, Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun State, he was taken to
Lagos where he began to live with an uncle in Surulere, Lagos. The
uncle had a hotel known as Lolas Lodge near Tejuosho, Yaba, where he
worked as an attendant during the day and then attended evening
classes at Igbobi College, Lagos.
Although his early exposure to the work life could be said to have
momentarily distracted him from his educational pursuits, his strong
desire for knowledge and self-improvement made him to later sit for
the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE). Thereafter, he took
a correspondence course in Business Studies at the Pitman College,
London and much later a Diploma in English Language at the University
of Lagos.
But, suffice it to say that his early exposure to the work life set
him on a path of industry and self-dependence from which he never
looked back while many of his peers were still tied to their mother’s
apron strings. When he was barely 20 years old in 1978, he found his
way into Yaba Local Government Area of Lagos State where he was
engaged as an agent for motor vehicle registration and documentation,
licenses and the like.
After working for about a year, he made enough savings from which he
began his automobile business. Yes, automobile business! How he did
it? Here is how: he worked Monday through Friday at the local council.
But, on Friday evening, after the close of work, he would leave Lagos
for Kaduna where he would arrive the next day. From the park or train
station, he would go straight to Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN) in
Kaduna where he made his purchases and then return to Lagos on Sunday
so as to resume work the next day. Whenever he got to Kaduna late, he
would make contact with his the sales personnel, make all the
necessary arrangements and return to work. He began with one 504
Peugeot car, and then progressed to two, three…
Kashamu later veered into the real estate business. His first was a
plot of land he bought in Ikotun Egbe, a Lagos suburb on which he
built his first house – a block of four flats. His immediate elder
sister lived in one of the flats until recently when she relocated to
Lagos Island.
His adventure soon took him to the buying and selling of various goods
such as soap, textile materials and cement. This made him to begin to
shuttle between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin where he established
a cotton ginnery factory that is still in operation till date. He also
became the first, if not the sole agent of Sanyong and Daewoo motors
in West Africa.
Expectedly, Kashamu became the toast of the powers-that-be and the
envy of many in most of the neighbouring French speaking West African
countries, especially in the Republic of Benin. He was to become a
victim of the internal politics in the Republic of Benin. He was roped
into an indictment he knew nothing about which has metaphorically
become his cross despite several judicial pronouncements by the
effervescent and impregnable British courts and their Nigerian
counterparts to the effect that it was a case of mistaken identity.
The details are already in the public domain. There is no need to bore
you anymore; lest we digress.
Many may know him as a philanthropist; some see him as a strong man
and yet others say he is just one of the politicians. But there is
more to the Kashamu persona. Beyond his gusto and gait is a heart of
gold, full of empathy and flowing with the milk of human kindness.
Nothing is too much for him to give. No amount of money or possession
is too much for him to part with. He does not hold on tightly to
anything; be it money, vehicles, clothings or accessories.
Despite knowing his generous nature, he gives so much that even those
that are close to him are stunned at the level of his generosity. His
estranged friend and Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose had once
publicly declared that even as a governor and politician, he had yet
to see a politician as generous as Kashamu.
When you try to caution him, he rebuffs such entreaties. He is quick
to remind you that he is not a rich man but only spends like a rich
man. His other refrain is that he has committed his life to sharing
his resources with the needy and the less privileged because,
according to him, the more he gives, the more he receives from the
Almighty God. He is down-to-earth. It is a common sight for him to
wine and dine with the crowd who visit his Ijebu-Igbo country home for
one issue or the other.
Kashamu also possesses an unbelievable amount of strength and energy.
He hardly gets up to six hours of sleep every day; not because of
insomnia or anything of that sort but because he is a workaholic who
likes to be on top of his game. An idea could just drop on his mind
anytime of the night; he would call you up and begin a discussion. He
would joke with you in-between and then bare his mind. If you think
with the passage of time, he would have forgotten some of the things
he said, you would be shocked to realise how wrong you were! He would
recap everything word-for-word.
Kashamu is endowed with a high degree of native intelligence, a sharp
mind and an eye for detail.
Perhaps, as a result of his past experience, he is also a fighter for
justice and equity. Instead of resorting to self-help and violence, he
believes so much in the use of the law to fight and correct social and
personal injustice. It is this belief that has always set him on
collision course with some political heavyweights within his political
party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and beyond. Hopefully, when
the story of the rebirth of the PDP will be written, his contributions
will be properly documented.
Beneath the huge and strong persona is a man who fears and
acknowledges God in his dealings. A good example was when people came
to tell him that some powerful forces in the politics of Ogun State,
including the immediate past Governor had said they would ensure he
did not win his election into the Senate. His standard response was:
“are they God? Whatever God has decreed, no man can change it”.
Although he is now a Senator by the grace of God and the benevolence
of the good people of Ogun East Senatorial District, his major
preoccupation has been how to use the position to impact on the lives
of people, irrespective of their creed, colour or ethnic background.
He is a detribalised Nigerian who is always looking for ways to put
smile on people’s faces.
Kashamu speaks French fluently, just as he updates himself with
technology, trends and current affairs. No doubt, he is several
things to many people. Yet, many – even his most ardent critics –
would agree that Kashamu has proven his mettle as a leader,
philanthropist, an entrepreneur, an employer of labour, an empowerer
and an unusual politician.
As he marks his 59th birthday, there is no better way to appreciate
and encourage him to continue to live a life of selfless service than
to chronicle some of his rare attributes and activities for humanity
and posterity.
– Oniyokor is the media aide to Senator Buruji Kashamu